Monday, December 1, 2014

Greensboro Watershed Trails: Natty Greene & Laural Bluff


The trails along the lakes that make up the Greensboro watershed are hidden gems in the triad.  The Nathaniel Greene Trail runs along the southeast shoreline of Lake Brandt from Old Battleground Road to the Lake Brandt Marina.  To do the entire trail will be a 6 mile round trip.  Hiking from the Old Battleground trail head, you will encounter bike traffic on the Lake Brandt Greenway and will cross a busy mountain bike trail.  

The trail is a shaded stroll through the forest along a well marked path.  This end of the trail is very popular so be prepared to be sociable.  Strangely though the good views of the lake are not seen until you reach the shore line of a cove some 2.5 miles into the trail. 

Views of the lake can be seen but only through the trees.

 Of course the FBWG never forsakes a trail bench with a view of a sparkling lake on a hot Autumn afternoon.  

But the best views of the lake are from the cove.   The still water produces a natural mirror reflecting the trees and sky in a marvelous display of optic synchronicity.

Hiking the Natty Greene at sunset is a real treat but to get the best view, you really need to access the trail from the Marina trail head and walk to the cove which is about a 3/4 mile hike.  

Then take the spur trail along the shoreline.  If you hit it at the right time.....this is the view you will get!

No sunset is the same.  On the afternoon we hiked the Natty Greene at sunset it was cold and clear. The light reflecting off the still lake intermingled with the blue sky and the pink clouds to produce colors likened to that on an artist's palette. 

The best place to watch the sunset in the triad is the Lake Brandt Marina.  And on the day we hiked the Natty Greene we were entertained with a spectacular show of nature's original light show. Reminding me of  what the good book says: 

"The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where the morning dawns, where the evening fades, you call forth songs of joy" (Psalm 65:8)

Moving to the floating dock and scaring a sleeping duck, I got the last and one of best views of the day.

The sun's reflection on the water and within the clouds caused the color to change time and again as the sun set.

The trail is hard to rate.  The path is well marked and the trail head is easy to find - 8;  the scenery is best at the end of the trail and if you hike the Natty Greene in the summer you are likely to catch heat and mosquitoes - 8; the effort to view ratio is lopsided as it is an easy trail and the view especially at sunset is spectacular - 8.   If you want a short hike with good views access the trail from the marina and hike to the cove.....a longer trek and a better workout would be from the Old Battleground Road....but if you wish to catch the sunset you will hike out in the dark. Overall rating is an 8 at sunset ....a 7 at any other time.


Across from the Lake Brandt marina, next to a water power plant is the trail head to the Laurel Bluff Trail.   The trail is wooded 3.5 mile out and 3.5 mile back trail along the Reedy Fork Creek tributary leading from the Lake Brandt spillway to Lake Townsend.  The trail begins with a walk through a bamboo tunnel.

The path leads through the woods an on a small bluff above the creek which meanders through the wetlands.  

At the 1.25 mile mark the trail rises to a bluff that is covered with laurel.  When the laurel is in bloom, this would be a pretty place to visit.  The trail otherwise is unremarkable.  It is an easy trail with a couple of small climbs but other than the distance, it is an easy walk through the woods.

Just after the 1.75 mile marker, you crest a kudzu covered bluff.  To the right is the end of a small airstrip which cannot be seen but when a plane takes off while you are on the will be very apparent where the airstrip is!  Just past the bluff we got the first glimpse at Lake Townsend through the trees...a sight which will not be available in the summer.  

At the bottom of the hill below the kudzu bluff the trail leads to a lakeside tree from which we got a better view of the lake and two magnificent Blue Herons....

I was ready to snap a picture when hunters across the lake erupted in fusillade of gun fire....that chased the Blue Heron away.....dang it!  But I did capture them in the distance grazing on a mudflat.
I climbed down to the shoreline and walked out on a mudflat to get a better view of the Blue Herons and found instead a better view of the sun setting over the lake.
Looking downstream, the sun provided a nice color to the lakeside landscape.

Bushwhacking off the mud flat onto the wooded embankment, I turned to take a shot of two evergreen trees nearly standing in the water.
Owing to the lateness of the day, we turned back at the two mile mark.  The Laurel Bluff Trail can be accessed from Church Street trail head to get a shorter hike and a better view of the lake. 

Rating the trail is similar to the Natty is a long hike for limited views.  Nice for a winter hike but I bet in the summer it would be brutal.  Access is a 9....the trail is a 7 ...well marked but not very interesting.....scenery is a 7....of course the trail gets deducts for the many gunshots and the two airplanes that scared the bejesus out of us! Overall rated 7 trail because it is an easy walk with a few nice climbs but a hard trail to enjoy if you are looking for views of the lake.

Next time I will leave early and do the loop!

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